Saturday, December 4, 2010

Experts at RLP

I stumbled upon this excellent quote while re-watching old episodes of Newsradio (my favorite show in junior high school and still highly recommended - at least until it jumps the shark midway through Season 3):

Lisa: I - I can do it sir, though it does seem completely hypocritical and illogical - I can do it.
Mr. James: Sorry, I'm used to working with Dave, see he's got a true gift for RLP.
Lisa: What?
Mr. James: Reconciling Logical Paradoxes.

Now, it struck me that a gift for RLP is probably one of the most useful talents a graduate student can have. Who among us is not faced with contradictory or nonsensical situations on a nearly daily basis? ("Please complete this experiment which to all intents and purposes is impossible", "Please write this report even though it was due three days ago," "Please start a new experiment even though you already have five underway". And of course, the biggest logical paradox of all: "What I am still doing in grad school?")

It is not therefore not surprising that students (especially in science!) have such a hard time adjusting to the demands of graduate school: we were (educationally speaking) raised in a world of problem sets and lab reports, right and wrong answers, yes or no - with no middle ground (or "higher ground", where the solutions to RLPs are usually found). 

But survival in this world is dependent on RLP - you wouldn't want to be pray to Logic Bombs like a mere android, would you?!?

So, next time you find yourself wondering why on Earth you are throwing away your twenties on an experiment that will never work, just remind yourself: "I am becoming an expert at RLP". (See! I just reconciled a logical paradox! I'm getting good)

P.S. Speaking of logical paradoxes, how is this not cheating?

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